Quick Tips for Story Sizing in Agile Design and Development

1. Pick a Consistent Story Point Baseline

I made this visualization to help my team understand how we could use this system before we decided to put it into practice
  • “One thing you can do is create a baseline story that everybody can agree is a medium-level effort-like a ‘3.’ Then, you can compare all future story estimates against that by going lower or higher.” — Drew Christiano, Design Lead
  • “You can try to estimate what T-shirt sizes look like in days, often no less than half-day increments. So, ‘small’ would be a half-to-full day effort, ‘medium’ would be a one-to-two-day effort, and ‘large’ would be a three-to-five day effort. Then, break up anything over a ‘large.’” — Dan Singer, Senior Experience Designer

2. Agree on the Story Sizing that Fits your Team and Needs Best

  • “Identify a quantifiable task your team did (e.g. ‘design and build the taskbar’), and use historical data to scope out the effort for that task together.” — Phil Charron, EVP
  • “Also, you can take the next 5–10 features in your backlog, sort them as a team in order of ‘biggest’ to ‘smallest.’ Discuss as a team why you ordered them in that way. (Oh, that one is definitely ‘big’ because we don’t have APIs to get that data. Great! Availability of APIs can be used as one data point to evaluate effort of future features.) As you do this, you’ll start to develop a common vocabulary and understanding of what makes something big vs. small, and in between-and be able to reference the exercise and conversations when evaluating future features.” Phil Charron, EVP

3. Spread out the Effort

  • “Check in with the team to make sure the goal in estimating is to ensure that no one is overloaded. That could look like making sure someone doesn’t get all of the high-effort or high-time stories — Dan Singer, Senior Experience Designer

4. At the End of a Sprint, Reflect on How the Estimating Worked

  • “Some members of the team may report things like, ‘This one was a medium, but it took me 5 days to complete.’ Try to dig into what about that story you didn’t know at the beginning, and put that into the criteria for future estimating. Remember that you won’t get it perfect every time. T-shirt sizes and story points will shift, and that’s OK.” — Dan Singer, Senior Experience Designer

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